Visa Fees, Maté, and Tears

So a few weeks ago I hopped aboard the Buquebus ferry for a quick trip to Montevideo, Uruguay. I, sadly, only had time for a 1 day trip. So why go? Well, if you enter Argentina, you’re most likely on a tourist visa. This is true for pretty much everyone, whether you’re here to study abroad, for work etc. Why? Because it’s easier and cheaper than going through the process of applying for papers. So if you are here on a tourist visa, you must leave the country every 3 months, aka, every 90 days. If you are planning to stay in Argentina longer than 90 days you must do what everyone does – a quick day trip to Uruguay get your stamps and come on back. No biggie. . .

A few things to keep in mind.

1. You HAVE to leave within 90 days. Not a day after, not on the day of, WITHIN.

2. Choosing not to will cost you $300AR – I am sure that price will go up ;). You can pay this at immigration or at customs. I learned this the hard way.

3. If you are from the states make sure you have your receipt showing that you paid your reciprocity fee. This was also a lesson I learned the hard way. Here is what happened…

I had just had a lovely day in Montevideo. I arrived around 11am and even though I had to dish out 300 pesos I was not going to let that ruin my day. I walked around the old part of the city – keep in mind if you go on a Sunday EVERYTHING is closed, I mean EVERYTHING (and I thought Buenos shut down on Sundays). The only places open are the churches and the super touristy over priced parrillas.

I, of course, went on a Sunday – facepalm.

I didn’t let it get to me, it was a beautiful day, I had a good book and my notebook – I was set! To be honest all I wanted to do was sit on the beach anyway. Montevideo is at located in the south and creates a little tip. So on either side of the city you have the Rio de Plata.

Map of the Río de la Plata, showing cities in ...

Map of the Río de la Plata, showing cities in Argentina and Uruguay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the widest river in the world and it runs into the Atlantic ocean. The Rio de Plata separates Argentina and Uruguay. Buenos Aires is also located along the coast of the rio, but there are no playas (beaches) in Buenos.

The first thing I noticed about Montevideo was the water. The rio here in Buenos is, well, ugly. It’s a warm brown color – like café con leche – mmm ;). But the water in Montevideo was a lovely blend of different shades of blue. I later found out the color of the water changes based on the direction of the wind. If the wind is coming from Brazil the water will be blue. If the water is coming from Argentina the water will turn brown (I am sure this adds to the friendly rivalry between the two countries).

The city itself was pretty empty, but that was because everyone was lined up along the coast. . .

– drinking maté in the parks overlooking the water

– fishing and drinking maté

– strolling along the boardwalk that lines the coast while. . . drinking maté.

(I will remain neutral on this one, but I was told that Uruguay loves maté more than any other S.A. country.)

Montevideo is a beautiful city and I was actually really grateful that it was kind of dead. It was nice to escape Buenos for a day and have a tranquilo afternoon strolling the empty streets soaking up some vitamin D.

So, there I was feeling refreshed, optimistic, relaxed. I am in line at customs waiting to be stamped through and the agent asks me for my visa #. Erm, que? I have no visa number. All I have is a stamp in my passport. I basically needed to show proof that I paid my reciprocity fee, which is a one time entry fee for US citizens. Once you pay it’s valid for 10 years (regardless of the 3 month rule). One would think the fact that I was allowed into Argentina, had a stamp less than a year old, would be enough – it’s not. She denied me access and said I would have to pay USD$300 (!) to get into the country.

Halllluphalllluphalllaup – hold the fuck up! What?!

Trying not to get too stressed out, I tried to work this out for about 20 minutes in my broken castellano and her broken english. Finally a manager came along pulled me into his office and explained that there was no other way. We go back and forth, back and forth. So, at last, I gave up, looked him dead in the eye and said – “well what am I supposed to do?” – and then the tears started rolling down my cheeks. He looked at me as if my face was melting off, said “tranquilo, tranquilo, espere” and within minutes he had found, printed out my proper documentation, and sent me on my way.

The day didn’t end there. Relieved, grateful, but completely drained I got on the ferry looking forward to finishing my book. Next thing I know I am joined by a futbol team that had played in some tournament in Montevideo. 🙂 I can’t think of a better way to end my trip than by being serenaded, learning how to properly cuss men out when they bother me, and drinking maté with a bunch of sexy Argentine soccer players.

Good lookin’ out universe, good lookin’ out.

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